Israel Museum Debuts King Herod Exhibit

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Jerusalem's Israel Museum has unveiled the world's first exhibit on the life and legacy of King Herod the Great. It includes artifacts never before seen and shows why Herod is known as one of history's greatest builders.

If you ask most Christians who King Herod was, they will likely answer, "He was the king who tried to kill the baby Jesus by ordering the slaughter of all Jewish boys under the age of two."

Ancient historians go on to describe him as a great builder and a paranoid ruler who executed his wife and three sons. 

But museum director James Snyder said there is more to the story of King Herod. 

"It (the exhibit) focuses more on his achievement as a builder and it focuses more on his capability as a diplomat balancing the needs of empire with the needs of local culture," Snyder told CBN News.

"During his ruling, there was peace in the country and there was work for everyone and there was no disemployment [unemployment] and then people lived more or less in prosperity," Silvia Rozenberg, the Israel Museum's senior curator of classical archaeology, said.

King Herod governed ancient Israel for 33 years under Roman rule. His most famous building project was the enlargement of the Temple Mount and the city of Jerusalem. Many of his building blocks were monumental stone.

Snyder said discovering Herod's tomb at Herodium five years ago triggered the exhibit.

"That opened the opportunity to think across the whole of his history, the whole of his achievement -- Jerusalem, Caesarea, Jericho, Masada and of course Herodium, at first as a summer palace and then as a burial site," Snyder said.

Rozenberg explained the planning behind the exhibit.

"So in fact we like designed the exhibition like the people are going from Jericho to Herodium and talking about the person during the funeral procession and then you can say everything that you think about the king -- the good and the bad," she told CBN News.

The intricate restoration included putting together what was believed to be Herod's sarcophagus from mere fragments, many the size of gravel.

The exhibit includes mosaics, floors and décors from Herod's palaces, jugs used to import wine, apples and other food from Europe, and a VIP guest room at the top of his theater, likely used to entertain diplomatic guests. It's decorated with pictures of windows, including one that took nearly three years to reconstruct.

There is also aerial footage of Herod's construction sites with 3-D animation to show what his colossal buildings would have looked like.

Snyder said it's the most ambitious archaeological exhibition ever undertaken by the museum. The $1million exhibit will be on display until October.

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